Replacing Outlets Really IS Easy!

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I almost didn’t write this post, because it’s such a quick, simple little thing. It’s the sort of thing I would have blogged about back when I still had time for three or four blog posts a week but that these days I’d usually just do a quick Instagram post about it instead. But then I thought, “eh. What the hell?” Something along those lines. Also I thought about how I actually have Abe’s room all finished AND photographed, but I haven’t gotten all the photos edited yet, and that post is going to be a bit of a bear to write, what with all the linking back to past projects and sources and whatnot. And then I thought about how much of the DIY blogger world is focused on going to Haven this week/end, so it’s kind of a slow blogging week (I’m not going. Even though it’s RIGHT THERE. Someday I’ll make it back). And then, apparently, I thought, “you know what everyone would like with this post that is barely worthy of being a post? A big long introduction about exactly why I decided to write the post in the first place.”

Right.

So.

Our house was built in the early 80’s. It’s seen some updates since then, but a lot of what’s here is now entering its fourth decade of life, and things are starting to show some signs of age. We just had a plumbing repair the other week, for example, that we couldn’t fix ourselves because it required busting holes in the wall and then lowering a tiny camera down between the walls to find the leak. What did plumbers do before they had tiny little cameras?! More holes in walls? I’m not blogging about how Dave had to fix the big hole in our wall, though. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s behind the couch. Just kidding, Dave! You did a great job! I couldn’t find the patch if I tried!

Another issue is that we’ve noticed several of our outlets getting loose lately. As in, you plug something into them and the outlet doesn’t “grab” it the way you expect, and it comes back out easily if you put even a little pressure on the cord. It occurred to me the other day to google and see if this is a safety issue in addition to being annoying.

And, hey, it is! Oops. What’s going on is that there are metal contacts inside the outlets that get worn out over time. This can lead to arcing, which is essentially like tiny lightning bolts right there in your walls, and it can start fires. At any rate, this is what the internet told me. Fortunately, it also told me that replacing outlets is a straightforward job that’s easy to DIY. No tiny cameras required!

So I’m not going to do a tutorial of this, because there are a million of those out there already by people with far more experience and knowledge about how not to get electrocuted than we have. But I will say that it was pretty much as quick and easy as promised and definitely the type of job it’s worth doing yourself to save some money if you’re even a little bit comfortable with such things. Dave got mildly frustrated doing the first one, but after that he got very quick. We’ve replaced four so far, and there are a couple of other, less frequently used plugs that we need to get to as well.

Couple of thoughts:

*Some outlets have one black, one white, and one copper grounding wire. Some have two black and two white plus the ground. Our house, for some reason, has some of each. They’re both easy to deal with, but finding the second one looked completely different from the first threw Dave off for a bit. The replacement outlets you buy will work with either wiring configuration.

*Here’s a two wire tutorial: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-replace-an-electrical-outlet-apartment-therapy-tutorials-215425

*Here’s a four wire tutorial: http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/elect/repairs/outlet/replace.htm

*It probably almost always makes sense to buy replacement outlets in big contractor packs rather than single ones. If one of your outlets is wearing out, it’s probably just a matter of time before they all do. In my very non-professional opinion. Also, they’re super cheap. Here’s a pack of 10 for $10.90 (with free prime shipping) on Amazon. We picked ours up at Ace for about the same price.

So I don’t have a brand new tutorial to add to the world here, but I do have a VERY HANDY TIP for those of you with toddlers. Dave picked up a volt sensor at the same time he bought the replacement outlets. This is a good thing to have because you want to make sure there’s no electricity still going to your outlet before you start switching it out, lest you electrocute yourself. So you first have to find the right circuit breaker and flip it off. You can test whether it’s off by plugging something in to the outlet in question, but it’s easier and more fun to use a volt sensor.

But the very best thing about volt sensors is that they’re easy enough for a three year old to use!

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And! After your three year old has helped you find the right circuit to switch off, you can send him off on a mission to test every single outlet in your house! And he will be gone for a good twenty minutes! And he’ll be learning all about electricity, of course, so it’s a science lesson AND a break for you!

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